FAIR HAVEN SUNOCO CLOSES

The River Road station will be boarded up until Sunoco can find another tenant, says the departing gasoline dealer. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

After 20 years, Rich Bercaw has pulled down the bay doors for the last time at his Sunoco gasoline and service station on River Road in Fair Haven.

Unable to keep up with steep rent and what he described as steadily dropping demand for both fuel and repairs, Bercaw pink-slipped five employees and shut off the lights last Thursday, he tells redbankgreen.

“Sunoco will come in and board it up until they find someone to rent it,” he said, as he loaded equipment into a pickup truck Tuesday. And with a deeply discounted first-year’s rent, “eventually, they’ll get someone,” he said.

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COLONY HOUSE RENT COMPLAINTS MOUNT

colony-house-2008A plan to convert the Colony House failed, leading to a return to rentals, and new-tenant complaints about jacked-up rents. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Following a pattern reported on by redbankgreen back in June, the owner of the Colony House apartments has continued to illegally raise rents on tenants, some of whom may be afraid to pursue legal recourse, members of the Red Bank Rent Leveling Board said Thursday.

At their monthly meeting in a nearly empty council chambers, board members said that about eight residents had filed formal complaints in recent months alleging that the landlord, Park Ridge LLC of Lakewood, had rescinded incentive discounts given to new tenants since 2009, and then imposed cost-of-living improvements on the new base rent.

Only the cost-of-living adjustments are permitted under the borough rent ordinance, said board attorney Gene Anthony.

“We had three complaints in September alone,” said board chairman Vincent Light.

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RENT BOARD TABLES CPI DISCUSSION

rent-board-102711Two tenants and two reporters turned out for Thursday night’s monthly meeting of the Red Bank rent board. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

No landlords appeared from the cold rain outside, and only two tenants showed up, one of them to discuss an unrelated matter. Four members of the eight-member board were absent.

But paltry attendance wasn’t the reason Red Bank’s Rent Leveling Board didn’t get far with its review of the borough rent ordinance, which links annual increases to the Consumer Price Index, the nation’s go-to gauge of inflation.

No one on the board knew why the law, which dates to 1978, was structured to permit rent increases of 60 percent of the CPI rise when a tenant pays for heat, and 80 percent when the landlord does.

“I’m on the board 20 years, and I’m not sure of the reason for it,” said board attorney Gene Anthony. “It has never been addressed by this board, and no landlord has ever complained about it, either.

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IDINA MENZEL, MARVIN HAMLISCH AT BASIE

idinamenzelSuperstar stage and screen diva Idina Menzel returns to Red Bank Thursday with no less than Marvin Hamlisch at the podium as guest conductor of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra.

By TOM CHESEK

Most actors, singers or combinations thereof would be very thankful to have latched on to even one genuinely fan-supercharged, multi-generational, cross-cultural pop phenomenon in their professional lifetimes. Idina Menzel has been a big part of three such phenoms — and the general consensus is that she’s only just begun.

When the recently minted stage superstar, who painted herself a minty green for her Tony-winning turn as Elphaba in Wicked, returns to the boards of the Count Basie Theatre Thursday night, she’ll be bringing it big-time for local Rentheads (she originated the role of Maureen in the modern musical smash), Gleeks (she’s co-starred in the recurring role of Shelby Corcoran on the hitmaking Fox TV series), and whatever it is that fans of Wicked call themselves these days (Elphicionados?).

The native Long Islander and hardworking mom (she and co-RENTer husband Taye Diggs have an infant son) will also be bringing along an extra special treat — Marvin Hamlisch, the EGOT winner (Emmy-Grammy-Oscar-Tony, that is; not to mention two Golden Globes and one Pulitzer Prize) who’s scored about as many golden trophies as he has movies, TV specials and Broadway musicals. The maestro will be wielding the baton as guest conductor of the mighty New Jersey Symphony Orchestra for an 8p set of songs written or otherwise “owned” by the star singer, from stage/screen signatures to material from her 2008 CD I Stand.

The celebs desk at redbankgreen talked to Menzel on the eve of her east coast jaunt. A half-dozen or so Q’s and A’s follow.

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AT THE BASIE: THIS SPACE FOR ‘RENT’

rent-photo-1-lae280a6lly-piscopo

Billy Piscopo rehearses “La Vie Boheme” in the Phoenix Productions staging of RENT, opening this weekend at the Count Basie Theatre. (Photos courtesy of Phoenix Productions)

By TOM CHESEK

It’s a show that’s described by the director as iconic and beloved; one whose “fierce honesty” and “lack of artifice” has made it a genuine favorite of a whole generation of stage performers.

It won a Best Musical Tony and a Pulitzer Prize; ran for a dozen years on Broadway; has single-handedly been credited with reinventing the modern American musical — and has spawned a legion of followers who’ve been branded everything from “the most passionate” to “the most annoying” of fanbases.

When Rent comes to Red Bank this Friday night for its first-ever staging by the borough-based Phoenix Productions, one might think that it’d be a ready-made coup for the Count Basie Theatre‘s resident nonprofit theatrical troupe — a slam-dunk “Phoe-nomenon” with a built-in audience.

Instead, as Phoenix artistic director Tom Frascatore points out, it’s “not at all a safe bet for us. In fact, it’s a bit of a dice roll.”

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